Friday, September 24, 2010

Split pea soup with potatoes and dill

Wow!  This might be one of my favorite recipes that I've posted yet.  As I started describing in the last post, this soup was born because I just wanted to cook all the veggies in my fridge at the same time and couldn't focus on one thing.  The potatoes and dill were just begging to be cooked, and with the first chill of fall, they ended up in soup.  I didn't know exactly where it was going while I was making it (so unfortunately, the amount on the liquids and potatoes might be a little off, cause I didn't measure, but they're close.  You'll notice copious tilde use in the ingredient list.)  The flavors are really great, so I encourage you to make this one, especially if you have good potatoes, dill, and parsley hanging around.  It works best if you are completely distracted by cooking other things.

Makes about 1 gallon of soup (8 big servings)

1 T. olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
~3 qts. water
1 lb. of yellow split peas (green would be okay too)
~2 bay leaves
~1 T. Better than Bouillon veggie base 
~1/2 lb. small Yukon gold potatoes, cut up in bite sized pieces (other kinds would be okay, but I LOVED the creamy sweetness of the Yukes)
~1/2 bunch parsley
~4-5 T. fresh dill
~1 c. buttermilk
Salt to taste
optional: chopped chives or green onion to garnish and for extra flavors

1.  Heat olive oil over medium, add in the onion and sautee till soft and just starting to brown (6-8 minutes or so). 
2.  Add water, split peas, bay leaves, BTB.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low.  Cook for ~15 minutes.  
3.  Add the potatoes.  Continue to simmer for about another 30 minutes.  Check occasionally towards the end.  You don't want to cook it for so long that the potatoes start to disintegrate.
4.  While simmering, chop up the parsley and dill; I used the food processor to get it quite small, but process the two separately so you can add the right amount of dill for your liking. 
5.  When the soup is done, stir in the parsley, dill, and buttermilk.  Go easy on these and taste as you go.  You don't want the dill to be overpowering (and I think people have pretty different levels of dill tolerance, I tend to prefer it on the light side), but you definitely want to taste it.  For the buttermilk, I would suggest that you don't even want to really be able to identify it.  Using just a small amount - a cup or so (compared to the 3 qts water) - gives the soup a creamy body and a very slight tang, but I wouldn't describe it as sour or acidic at all.  6.  Add some salt if necessary (for once, I think I didn't add any extra at all!).  Serve with chives or green onions if desired.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Summer rice and veggies (on the first day of fall)

Because we had such a cold spring this year, what I think of as typical summer fruits and veggies - tomatoes, peppers, corn - were pretty late up at Grant Family Farms.  But just in the last two or three weeks, we're finally getting a summer bounty! 
Left - apple and kohlrabi salad; Right - rice and summer veggies; Back - sauteed chard.

I really was having trouble deciding what to make for dinner tonight.  Almost all the veggies in the fridge were very inviting so I felt pulled in different directions.  Unable to make a decision, I ended up making four things that I'm not going to pretend have any sort of theme: rice and summer veggies, an apple and kohlrabi salad, sauteed chard w/ garlic, and a split pea soup that I might put in a separate post.  The soup we didn't have for dinner; I made that for future lunches (although I might go have some right now...).  Despite a bit of discordance, the unifying theme is of course seasonal produce (whatever that means given our crazy seasons), so it ended up working out just fine.  The rice and veggies I loved, the salad I liked a lot, so I'll put the recipe here but I don't think it deserves its own post.  I am proud of myself for finding a tasty way to use raw kohlrabi.  Up till now I've just be pickling it or putting it in a soup.

Summer rice and veggies (serves 3-4)

1 c. uncooked rice (brown basmati is nice)
6-8 green chiles (Hatch, anaheim, etc)
3 ears of corn
1/4 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 T. butter
Salt and pepper
2 c. cherry tomatoes, halved, if desired
edamame (optional)

1.  Cook the rice according to directions with a little salt.
2.  Preheat a grill or broiler.  Place the chiles near the heat source.  Cook until the skin is blistered, not completely blackened (if it's very black the flesh is probably burned).  It should take maybe 5 minutes.  Flip over and repeat.  Once blistered on both sides, put in a zip-lock, tupperware, or bowl with saran wrap, and let sit for at least 10 minutes.  Then you should be able to get the skins off; a bowl of water helps.  Remove skins and seeds.  Chop the roasted chiles.
3.  Cut the kernels off the corn cobs.
4.  Cook the kernels over medium-high heat in a dry skillet or sautee pan.  Allow them to char (brown) a bit, stirring as needed.
5.  When the rice is done, stir together the rice, chopped chiles, cilantro, butter, and season with salt and pepper.
6.  Assemble on plate: rice mixture, topped with corn, topped with tomatoes.  I happened to have some leftover edamame, that I forgot about till after I took the picture, but that seemed to go well too, made it succotash-like!  Talk about a patchwork dinner...

Apple and kohlrabi salad (serves 4-6)

1 small kohlrabi
1 very large apple or 2 small to normal sized apples
Juice of 1/2 lemon
**Ribs from one fennel bulb - optional, see note
1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 t. sesame oil
salt and pepper

1. Peel the kohlrabi.  Slice as thinly as possible into strips that are maybe an inch by half an inch.
2.  Cut the apple into bite size chunks.  Throw into a bowl with the kohlrabi.
3.  Squeeze the lemon juice onto the salad, toss.  Do this right after step 2 to prevent oxidation.
4.  Add in the optional fennel, cilantro and sesame oil, toss, and season to taste!

**Note on the fennel - the fennel we got in the CSA is really weird.  Instead of a big bulb that you could just chop up like an onion, it was composed of a thick, VERY fibrous, inedible (found that out the hard way) stem, surrounded by relatively thin layers of edible fennel bulb.  So what looked like a big old fennel actually only yielded a small amount of edible fennel.  I broke off the edible layers like ribs of celery and sliced them across the grain.  It probably only yielded about 3 T. of sliced fennel ribs.  It tasted nice, but you could certainly skip it.  And it's strong when it's raw, so if you do incorporate it, be careful not to overload.

Good leftovers = awesome sandwiches and salads

This one is going to be short and sweet.  I just wanted to express my love for an interesting sandwich.  When you have good leftovers in the fridge, good sandwiches (and wraps, and salads) just happen, naturally.  My dinner wrap tonight:
-Whole wheat tortilla
-Cream cheese
-Leftover grated raw beet and carrot salad that was similar to one I posted (had some cucumbers in it too this time.... can't remember what else)
-Zucchini pickles made according to this recipe, but with half the sugar (I had followed the recipe exactly another time, and found the pickles too sweet).
-Fresh CSA lettuce

My lunch salad earlier:
-Fresh CSA lettuce
-Sweet corn quickly steamed and cut off the cob
-Kohlrabi pickles (love this recipe, have made it a lot)
-Some dill and green onions
-Smoked salmon  -  this is a tasty product from a Colorado company.  There's so many conflicting reports about the sustainability and healthfulness of farmed salmon... from what I can gather, it really depends on the operation.  And usually, the consumer can't really figure much out about the fish farm where the product came from.  Some are better than others in terms of what kind of feed they give the fish (veg/grain based versus fish based - a veg/grain based feed obviously has less impact on fishery depletion), impact on the water body, PCB levels in the final product.  So in the end farmed salmon is not something I'll eat often (and I'll definitely go for a wild-caught Pacific salmon when I can - that one I'm pretty sure is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's good list), but also not something I will completely shun.  This particular company's website does little to make me think they focus much on sustainability when buying their fish, which they then smoke and package.)

Whoops, that was supposed to be short, but I got sucked into thinking about  fishery sustainability and the pros and cons of aquaculture again.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bun' cha ca' (Vietnamese fish and noodle dish)

This recipe is from Thuy, Tin's mom.  It's quite easy, healthy, and above all, tasty.  A lot of the dishes we order at Vietnamese restaurants are somewhat heavy - either in a creamy sauce or friend.  But in this dish, the catfish is in a light marinade and grilled, and the flavors come from herbs and nuoc mam', the typical fish sauce based dipping sauce.  Most of the ingredients should be available at a well-stocked grocery store - the King Soopers near us has everything except the galangal.  Galangal is a root that looks like ginger, but is not as spicy.
There are 5 components to the dish: rice noodles, grilled catfish, sauteed onions and dill, and finally the toppings: nuoc mam' and peanuts.  First, here is the full list of ingredients, separated out by component.  This is about the right amount for 6 people.

1 package thin rice noodles (vermicelli, something that looks like this, 1 pound or 500 g)

4 fillets of catfish (catfish seems to vary dramatically in size, you want about 2 pounds for 6 people)
1 t. turmeric
1/2 inch grated or finely minced galangal (if you can't find any, you could use a smaller amount of ginger or a squeeze of lemon or lime juice - it'll be a little different but that's okay) 
1 T. olive oil

1 large yellow onion
1 large bunch fresh dill

1 T. lemon juice
2 T. sugar
2 T. concentrated nuoc mam' (we have the brand second from the left in this photo)
4 T. water

Roasted unsalted peanuts, slightly crushed

1.  Start with the catfish: slice the fillets into pieces that are about 1.5 - 2 inches by 4 - 5 inches... this doesn't need to be exact, but try to make the pieces relatively uniform so they cook evenly.
2.  Place the fish in a zip-lock bag with the turmeric, galangal and olive oil and marinate for 1 hour.
3.  While it's marinating, cut up the onions and dill, prepare the nuoc mam', and put a pot of water on the stove to boil for the noodles.   Slice the onion very thinly, and set aside.  Separate the fronds of the dill from the thick stems and slice into 1 inch pieces; set aside separately.
4.  For the nuoc mam', combine the lemon juice, sugar, concentrated nuoc mam', and water in jar and shake.
5.  Cook the rice noodles according to the package directions.
6.  Heat a little olive oil, and sautee the onions until they are softened.  Add the dill and stir for about a minute more, allowing the dill to wilt.
7.  Pre-heat a grill (or broiler), and once the catfish is done marinating, place the pieces on the grill and watch closely.  Depending on how thick the pieces are and how hot your grill is, it may only take a few minutes per side.
8.  Serve!  Put some noodles in your bowl, followed by a piece of fish (or two), veggies, peanuts, and a few spoonfuls of nuoc mam'.

Okonomiyaki (Japanese style savory pancakes)

I can't believe I've been eating so much cabbage all summer and only just now remembered about okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki was one of the most memorable things I ate when I went to Japan in 2002 - it's a pancake-like dish that is chock full of veggies and is served with a sweet BBQ-like sauce. It's a dish that's more informal, family fare, and it's not served in fancy restaurants... or Japanese restaurants in the U.S. for that matter.
Okonomiyaki with tonkatsu sauce, mayonnaise, and edamame

There's endless experiments and tweaks you could make... I'm pretty sure as long as I'm getting cabbage in the CSA I will be making this, and I will definitely try different veggies, flours, and I will try throwing some seafood in them at some point. But for now, here's a pretty basic version... I read/watched a few recipes out there (here, here, and best of all, here - just stumbled upon it but I love this show!!!) but ended up mostly just going by feel. The atypical parts of it are that I used half buckwheat flour - which I think worked great - and there's some Rice Krispies in there too cause some recipes call for tenkasu, and I didn't have any. I couldn't detect any Krispi-ness, I guess they don't quite hold up as well as tenkasu. For the sauce, I was missing about half the ingredients listed here so I just played it by ear and added stuff till it tasted delicious.

Also, here's the cabbage I used:

Funny looking, huh? I didn't know what it was called, so after a little googling I learned it's alternatively called "sweetheart cabbage," "caraflex cabbage," as well as my first guess, "pointy cabbage." It's milder and sweeter than normal green cabbage - I really like it and I think this is just about a perfect application for it since it doesn't get fully cooked. There were absolutely no bitter or sulfury tastes that you sometimes get with green cabbage.

Okonomiyaki - serves 2

1/4 c. ketchp
1.5 T. miso
2 T. mirin
1 clove garlic, minced finely
about 2 t. ginger, minced finely
1 t. hoisin sauce
A splash of vinegar (I used a chive flavored one, but any relatively neutral one would do)
A splash of Sriracha or hot sauce

1. Combine everything and simmer for about 20 minutes over low heat. Taste and adjust seasonings.

0.25 c. all-purpose flour
0.25 c. buckwheat flour
0.25 c. plus 1-2 T. vegetable stock - I diluted Better Thank Bouillion veggie stock base in some corn stock I made earlier this week. (Corn stock is made by just simmering water to cover a couple of corn cobs from which you've removed the kernels - I'll be using the rest for some corn chowder probably!)
1 egg
About 1/3 lb. cabbage (about 1/3 of a pointy cabbage), roughly chopped
3 T. green onions, chopped
1 T. ginger, finely chopped
1 small handful Rice Krispies
peanut oil

Serve with:
Furikake, nori or other seaweed, ripped apart if necessary, bonito flakes, bacon...
Edamame on the side (frozen, preferably in shells, cooked according to package directions)

1. Mix together the flours and the stock - use enough stock to make a very thick mixture. Then mix in the eggs.
2. Combine the cabbage, onions, and ginger, pour the flour mixture over the veggies, and lightly toss. Volume-wise, there's really more cabbage than batter, as you can see in the picture of it while it was cooking. If you want the ratio more in favor of bready goodness, you could just use less cabbage.
3. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium high. Oil it a little. Then pour the batter onto the griddle into two large, thick pancakes. You might think that it's too loose and will fall apart, but have faith. Use a spoon to shape the pancakes, and then cook for 4-6 minutes. Flip, and cook another 4 minutes or so.
After shaping, before flipping.
After flipping - nicely browned!

To serve, make an artsy grid of the okonomiyaki sauce vertically, and lines of mayonnaise horizontally. I tore up some nori sheets to put on top, and some edamame on the side (which I swear is not as good when they are out of the shells, but that's what I had!).  P.S - can you tell the pictures look different?  I got a new camera!  The cabbage pic was taken with the old one, the rest with the new.